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The Future of Air Transport

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Douglas Alexander): I am today publishing a progress report on “The Future of Air Transport” White Paper, 2003. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses
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and Vote Office. This document fulfils a commitment to report on progress made in implementing the White Paper by the end of 2006.

The progress report confirms the detailed strategy set out in 2003 for the sustainable development of air travel to 2030, balancing the growing aspirations to travel and the economic benefits that it brings with the need to protect the environment. The progress report confirms our earlier assessment that demand for air travel will continue to grow strongly. In line with the conclusions of Sir Rod Eddington’s recent study on transport infrastructure, it acknowledges the benefits that meeting this demand brings to business and to individuals across the UK.

The Government reaffirm their commitment to the development of the aviation sector, predominantly through making the best use of existing capacity, and ensuring that where new capacity is required its provision is in line with our environmental obligations.

In 2003, the White Paper made clear the importance of taking effective international action to tackle aviation’s contribution to the global challenge of climate change. The report demonstrates the action that we are taking to ensure that the aviation sector meets its external climate change costs. The Government intend to introduce a new emissions cost assessment, which will be an assessment of whether the aviation sector is meeting its external costs of climate change. This will inform Ministers’ decisions on major increases in aviation capacity. We intend to consult on this proposal next year.

The report confirms our continued strong support for the inclusion of aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme. We are committed to achieving this as soon as practicable. Since aviation is excluded from the Kyoto protocol we will push hard for the modernisation of the Chicago convention and the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to make it easier for negotiations there to deliver international progress on this issue.

The document clearly sets out our intended next steps in delivering the Government’s aviation policy. We are committed to reporting again on our progress in implementing these policies in three to five years’ time.

Work and Pensions

Autumn Performance Report

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. John Hutton): I am publishing today the “Autumn Performance Report” of the Department for Work and Pensions. The report is intended to supplement the Department’s annual report published in May 2006 (Cm 6829).

The report provides the latest account of how the Department is performing against its public service agreement targets and its efficiency challenge.

For the first time, this publication has been specifically designed to be accessed online and is available on the Department’s website. For the
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convenience of Members, some printed copies have been placed in the Library. Copies are also available from the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.

Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (Programme of Work)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) has today announced its phase 18 programme of work.

The authorities that will be inspected are: Amber Valley borough council, Basildon district council, Broadland district council, Colchester borough council, London Borough of Haringey, North Shropshire district council, South Lakeland district council.

BFI is an independent unit within the Department for Work and Pensions that inspects and reports directly to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the standard of benefit administration and counter-fraud activity in local authorities and the Department itself.

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Occupational Pension Schemes

The Minister for Pensions Reform (James Purnell): I have today placed a copy of the pensions regulator’s latest discussion document “Abandonment of Defined Benefit Pension Schemes” in the Library of the House. The pensions regulator’s statutory objectives require it to take steps to tackle threats to pension scheme members’ benefits. This consultation document sets out how the regulator proposes to regulate situations in which employers seek to transfer pension schemes to less secure arrangements in order to reduce their financial liabilities. In particular, the regulator considers that it is unlikely to be in the best interests of members for the link with an employer of substance to be broken without the employer meeting the cost of buying out the benefits with a regulated insurer.

The Government are determined that members of defined benefit pension schemes should have confidence that their pensions are secure, and that their employers will meet their commitments. Effective action by the pensions regulator makes a major contribution to member confidence and the security of their pensions, and I welcome this discussion document setting out the regulator’s plans in this important area.

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